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Saints' Jonathan Vilma appeals season-long suspension

  • By NFL.com Wire Reports
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New Orleans Saints' linebacker Jonathan Vilma has appealed his season-long suspension by the NFL for his role in the team's "bounty" scandal, league spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed to NFL Network and NFL.com on Monday.

Other players suspended by the league -- Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita -- filed a notice on Monday that they reserve the right to appeal after a grievance filed by the NFL Players Association on their behalf challenging commissioner Roger Goodell’s authority regarding these suspensions is heard, accoring to NFL.com's Steve Wyche. .

Vilma will be allowed to participate in all team activities during the appeals process, the league confirmed to Wyche.

Hargrove, a defensive end currently playing for the Green Bay Packers was suspended without pay for the first eight games of the season. Fujita, a linebacker now on the Cleveland Browns' roster, was suspended without pay for three games. Smith, a defensive end for the Saints, was suspended for four games without pay.

By filing an appeal to his suspension in the bounty program, Vilma is allowed to participate in offseason activities with the team, Vilma's attorney, Peter Ginsberg, told Wyche. Vilma actually is at the team facility rehabilitating a knee injury and going through workouts, according to Ginsberg.

Vilma's appeal will go directly to Goodell, who handed down the suspensions, per the labor agreement.

A league spokesman told Wyche that no timetable has been set for when Goodell will hear Vilma's appeal. Goodell expedited the appellate hearings for Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, head coach Sean Payton and assistant head coach Joe Vitt.

Fujita, who played for the Saints from 2006 to 2009, accused the league of keeping him in the dark about allegations leveled against him.

"I disagree wholeheartedly with the discipline imposed," Fujita said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. "I've yet to hear the specifics of any allegation against me, nor have I seen any evidence that supports what the NFL alleges.

"I look forward to the opportunity to confront what evidence they claim to have in the appropriate forum," added Fujita, a member of the NFLPA's executive committee. "I have never contributed money to any so-called 'bounty' pool, and any statements to the contrary are false. To say I'm disappointed with the league would be a huge understatement."

The league suspended the players for conduct detrimental to the NFL in connection to a "bounty" program run by the Saints' former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The "pay-for-play" scheme financially rewarded players for intentionally injuring opponents.

Williams, who was hired to be the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams in the offseason, has been suspended indefinitely by the league and did not appeal his suspension. Payton received a season-long ban, Loomis was suspended eight games and Vitt was suspended six. The team was fined $500,000 by the league, the maximum allowed.

The NFL Players Association filed a grievance on behalf of the suspended players last week, alleging that the league violated the collective bargaining agreement in the way that the investigation and suspensions were handled.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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